On Sunday, January 7th 1996, the Indianapolis Colts were getting ready to square off against the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. The Kansas City Chiefs drew first blood taking an early lead, but they couldn’t withstand the Indianapolis Colts who took the lead in the third quarter and won the game 10-7.
I was a twelve year old boy. I had just started getting into football and I sat on our living room couch proudly wearing my new Colts hat. I remember watching Jim Harbaugh throw the ball with confidence and poise thinking that there was no game he could lose. I remember hearing the announcer call Harbaugh by his new found nickname, “captain comeback.”
Colts fans knew that no team was safe against Jim Harbaugh and his ability to comeback late in games. That season he had staged four other comeback victories for the Colts. Three of them in the fourth quarter. He gave the team and the fans confidence that the Colts could win any game no matter the circumstances.
After Jim Harbaugh came a young kid named Peyton Manning. Manning seemed to have a similar quality. Colts fans quickly learned to have confidence in Peytons ability to comeback in games. Probably the most memorable was in the 2006 AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots. At halftime the Colts were losing 21-6.
Some of my friends lost faith then. They knew that the Colts could never come back from that against an elite team like the Patriots. I was confident in the Colts proven quarterback. Peyton did not disappoint. The Colts came back to win the game 38-34. Including that game, Peyton has stacked up 40 fourth quarter comebacks in his career. That is by far the most in NFL history.
This old Colts fan still appreciates the amazing level of play that I saw and still see in Peyton Manning, but tonight Colts fans were reminded that there is a new sheriff in town. Trailing at one point by 28 points, Andrew Luck calmly lead his team all the way back to win against the highly rated Kansas City Chiefs. Like Harbaugh had done before, Luck didn’t let playing from behind shake him. This was significantly more impressive than Harbaughs comeback. In fact, this was the second greatest comeback in NFL playoff history.
With tonight’s win over Kansas City, Andrew Luck has staged eight fourth quarter comebacks in his career. That’s no where close to Peyton Mannings 40, but it is impressive taking into account that Peyton Manning only had seven total fourth quarter comebacks in his first two seasons. That’s not much more than Peyton, but anywhere close to Peyton Manning is a good place, and Andrew has passed him so far.
Another place where Luck is outpacing Peyton Manning is game winning drives. That means comeback wins in general, not just the fourth quarter. In his first two seasons Peyton Manning had orchestrated eight total game winning drives. Andrew Luck so far has a total of eleven. This means that the true title of “captain comeback” should belong to Andrew Luck.
He has proven that no lead is safe for the opposing team. He can truly lead his team in any situation, even overcoming a 28 point deficit to one of the best ranked defenses in the NFL.
The truth is, that I don’t want to take the title of “captain comeback” form Harbaugh. Tonight I wore my number 4 jersey with pride, not knowing I was going to see a comeback that would put his to shame. I am a classic fan who holds a special place for the captain and his fading jersey. Instead I would rather give Luck the name “comeback kid.” He has this young excitement about him. He energizes the other players around him. He doesn’t only play to win, he plays to have fun. That sounds more like a kid than a captain.
So Comeback Kid it is. Ladies and gentlemen the Colts have another new legendary quarterback. The young fans in our lives are now witnessing games that they will be talking about for years to come. They will find a place for their Andrew Luck jerseys and wear them proudly for years, telling these stories for generations to come. They will find themselves telling the young fans of the future about the time they watched the Comeback Kid beat Kansas City on his way to the Superbowl.